Place in History

Gowanus Canal Initiative

Years: 1998 – 2000
Project: A two-year, three-part initiative to explore the history and future of the Gowanus Canal.
  • Gowanus Canal Viewing Boxes

    September - December 1998

    Between September and December 1998, Place in History installed ten steel viewing boxes along the railings of the Union Street Bridge in Gowanus, Brooklyn.
    The viewing boxes contained acrylic slides illustrating aspects of the canal's industrial heyday, ranging from the original Union Street Bridge to a portrait of a well-known local beat cop from the 1950's.
    To kick off the installation, Place in History sponsored an opening event featuring local historians, community members, elected officials and activists. The installation and opening ceremonies celebrated the reopening of the Gowanus Canal Pumping Station, a water-flushing facility that now works to clean the canal, after 37 years of inactivity.

  • The Third Carroll Street Bridge Garden

    October 1998

    In October 1998, Place in History assembled a group of neighborhood residents to rebuild a historic garden once located on the banks of the Gowanus Canal. The restoration of the garden was a public project designed to celebrate the reopening of the Gowanus Pumping Station, which now flushes the Canal with clean water from New York Harbor.

  • Community Education Initiative

    As a follow-up to the Gowanus Canal Viewing Boxes installation, Place in History co-director Paul Parkhill and environmental educator Abu Bakr Moulta Ali developed a year-long high school educational program exploring the canal's past, present and future development. Working with over 220 local public high school students at the Cobble Hill School of American Studies, the project involved in-class education, canal-side exploration, the reinstallation of five viewing boxes featuring student ideas for the canal's future, and the distribution of a 16-session curriculum to over 20 local schools.


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